Winter Sowing — Was It Worth It? Some Pros and Cons

Winter sown mustard greens seedlings

Hello, everyone! I hope 2020 has been treating you well so far. I’m back from an unintended hiatus, and it feels good to be occupying this space again! I can already tell that 2020 is going to be a great year.

As I embark on my second year of winter sowing, I’ve come to the realization I that never wrote up a recap of my thoughts on how my first year went, and if the whole process was even worth it.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of winter sowing, it’s essentially planting seeds inside a container that will act like a mini greenhouse and then leaving the container outside over the winter. The seeds will then germinate when the conditions are right. The most popular container for this method is a milk jug, but many other containers will also work. You can check out a whole slew of posts I wrote last year if you’re curious!

winter sowing containers outside
2020 winter sowing underway

But now you might be thinking, sounds cool, but does it work? Is it worth it? And I am here to tell you that yes it does, and yes it’s absolutely worth it — last year I was able to grow a huge variety of vegetables and flowers that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to grow since I don’t have a greenhouse or a grow-light setup. And it really wasn’t a whole lot of work. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to get your hands in the dirt in the middle of winter — a time when many of us are craving some garden therapy the most.

But enough of my rambling. Let’s break down the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Minimal work — prep the containers, plant your seeds, and leave them alone (outside) until they sprout
  • No expensive equipment needed
  • No remembering to turn grow lights on or off
  • No watering needed until containers start to dry out in the spring
  • You can use other containers aside from milk jugs, thereby recycling plastic that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill
  • You can reuse your containers year after year
  • Seeds that need cold stratification can be sown outside in the containers, rather than putting them in the refrigerator for a period of time before sowing them
  • No need to harden off seedlings since they’ve been growing outside since they germinated

Cons:

  • In all honesty, a group of milk jugs can look a little trashy in your yard
  • Not every container will work well (I will not be using salad containers again, they were too shallow)
  • Some seeds prefer to be started indoors, so not everything should be winter sown
  • Once things start sprouting, you need to keep a close eye on the weather in the event of a late frost or hail storm
  • Squirrels might dig in the containers once they’ve been opened, uprooting your seedlings

In my opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons, and I’ve already started 10+ containers this winter and intend to start more this weekend.

If this has piqued your interest, feel free to browse my previous posts or join the Winter Sowers Facebook group, where there’s a wealth of information to peruse. And if you end up trying this method, let me know how it goes for you!

Happy winter sowing!